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What’s New in K-12 Competency Education?

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Natalie Slocum

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field

What's NewVirgel Hammonds of KnowledgeWorks explains the difference between traditional and competency education. You can watch the video to learn more.


  • Clark County School District in Las Vegas will open the nation’s first Marzano Academy, adopting strategies from Dr. Robert Marzano (co-founder of Colorado-based Marzano Research).
  • Lindsay Unified Public Schools, a rural, public school in California’s Central Valley, is hoping to share its competency-based approach and change management practices.

State Updates

  • The U.S. Education Department approved the extension of New Hampshire’s competency-based assessment pilot.
  • The Maine Cohort for Customized Learning and Thomas College’s Center for Innovation in Education held a one-day summit to provide teachers with a statewide opportunity to share and collaborate, problem solve and create new action steps to address the largest implementation issues.
  • Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states have a historic opportunity to redesign systems of assessments and rethink accountability to support personalized learning. This article explores how Virginia is moving toward next generation accountability and and performance assessments.
  • Illinois is developing a new state plan under ESSA, the new federal K-12 education law.
  • Westminster Public Schools in Colorado began implementing competency education in 2009. This article explores how competency education is at odds with Colorado’s statewide accountability system.

School Updates

  • Deer-Isle Stonington Elementary School is adopting a proficiency-based grading system, which the high school is already working with (read more about Deer-Isle Stonington’s High School here).
  • In this article, Michael Horn explores the inputs and outcomes in credit recovery at LA Unified.
  • America Heritage (Idaho Falls) is embracing mastery-based education as one of 20 statewide “incubators” or pilots aimed at providing mastery-based education to students in 2016-17.
  • California’s Del Lago Academy created a competency-based approach which allows students to collect badges to prove their skills to colleges and employers, reinforcing the pipeline to college and career.
  • Superintendent of RSU5 in Maine, Dr. Becky Foley, explains the shift toward student-centered learning in their district as they continue to implement competency education from PreK-12. 

Thought Leadership

  • Joe DiMartino of Center for Secondary School Redesign wrote an article about a better way forward for competency education—to ensure we can bring competency education to all learners.
  • What does it take to make an innovative school? Two groups find and publicize ways to share best practices.
  • This Education Week article explains standards-based learning: what it means and why it can be so complex.
  • At a conference hosted by the Virginia Department of Education and Jobs for the Future, education researchers and officials outlined the need for alternative assessments.

RFP is Open for 8th Annual School Redesign in Action Conference

The New England Secondary School Consortium is inviting schools, community-based organizations, and education stakeholders from New England and across the nation to submit proposals to lead breakout sessions for the 8th annual School Redesign in Action conference, March 27 & 28, 2017 in Hartford, CT. The School Redesign in Action conference is the New England Secondary School Consortium’s annual conference for educators and stakeholders to share success stories, exchange best practices, and continue to build momentum and public support for innovations that personalize learning for all students. The deadline for submitting proposals online is Tuesday, November 1, 2016.

3 Resources on State Profiles for Competency Education

  • CompetencyWorks released a new report that explores K-12 competency-based education policy and practice across six New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
  • The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) released a new paper that outlines how and why Idaho, Utah and Florida launched competency-based education (CBE) pilot programs.
  • Achieve released a new paper that examines lessons learned about approaches to competency-based education in Colorado and Illinois.

New Resource

  • Springpoint’s released its milestone publication, Designing New School Models, A Practical Guide. It acts as a resource and an inspiration point for practitioners, administrators, students, families, and communities engaged in new school design.

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